Career Info for a Degree in Occupational Therapist Assisting

Occupational therapy assisting requires some formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Earning an associate's degree and professional certification is required for occupational therapy assistants. Much faster-than-average job growth is expected for occupational therapy assistants from 2014 to 2024, and they earned a median annual salary of $57,870 in 2015, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Information

Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work under the supervision of occupational therapists to provide therapy to patients who have impaired mobility and motor skills due to an accident or illness. They need an associate's degree in occupational therapy. Most of these programs call for classroom studies and clinical training with real patients. Most states require licensure or registration for OTAs, although requirements vary. Voluntary professional credentials are available as well.

Required Education Associate's degree in occupational therapy assisting
Other Requirements State licensing or registration
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 43%
Median Salary (2015)* $57,870

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Career Information

An occupational therapy assistant helps people with injuries or illness-related disabilities to recuperate and develop improved motor function and life skills. Under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist, an assistant teaches patients how to survive and live independently after an accident, stroke or life-altering illness. In addition to teaching patients simple tasks, such as tying shoes, OTAs also teach them how to use special therapy equipment or tools to help them enhance their level of self-sufficiency.

OTAs could need to document patients' medical records to help therapists decide on appropriate treatment plans. An occupational therapy assistant is not the same as an occupational therapy aide. Occupational therapy assistants require training and can assist with patient treatments, while aides primarily handle administrative tasks and have little interaction with patient therapies.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational therapy assistants should see a 43% increase in job opportunities during the 2014-2024 decade. This exceptional growth prediction is attributed mainly to the aging population of baby boomers and their attendant health needs. In 2015, OTAs earned a median annual wage of $57,870, reported the BLS.

Educational Requirements

Educational requirements for aspiring occupational therapy assistants include completion of at least an associate's degree program at an accredited community college or vocational school. Students complete a curriculum consisting of coursework, labs and clinical education to obtain hands-on training. Topics of study include rehabilitation theory, therapy development, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, human diseases and physical disabilities.

Certification and Licensure

Although state requirements vary, most states currently require OTAs to register with the state or obtain certification or licensure. Additional training might be necessary for those who work with children in state intervention programs or schools. Individuals who live in a state that doesn't regulate the profession can obtain a voluntary credential by passing an exam through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Passing the test earns professionals the designation of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). To maintain certification, occupational therapy assistants must participate in periodic workshops or continuing education courses.

Occupational therapy assistants implement a treatment plan with patients. Working under the supervision of an occupational therapist, who develops the treatment plan, OTAs may lead activities and exercises designed to increase motor function for patients who have been affected by a disability, injury, or illness.

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